DENVER -- East Lincoln faced its first true adversity of the season Friday night against county rival Lincolnton, but the Mustangs survived to complete an unbeaten run through the non-conference part of their schedule.
“We won the first two games by a lot, but I am more proud of this game,” East Lincoln coach Dave Lubowicz after his team’s tense 14-8 win. “We didn’t play especially well, but we showed great grit and determination.”
On a night when East Lincoln lost key players to injuries, the Mustang defense created two short-field opportunities for the offense.
Both East Lincoln scores came in the first half after Lincolnton turned the ball over deep in its own territory.
On Lincolnton’s first possession, a bad snap in punt formation resulted in a 16-yard loss. The Mustangs took over at the Lincolnton 12-yard line and scored two plays later on an 11-yard burst by Orlandis Howell-Johnson.
Midway through the second quarter, Marcel Johnson recovered a Lincolnton fumble to set up the Mustangs at the 20-yard line. Tyjai Johnson then scored on an 18-yard run to put East Lincoln up 14-0.
But East Lincoln was unable to pad its lead in the second half, in part because of the play of the Wolves’ defense. In four of their five second half possessions, the Mustangs punted twice and missed field goal attempts of 40 and 27 yards.
After having its best drive of the game stall at the Mustang 5-yard line in the first half, Lincolnton finally broke through on a 30-yard run by quarterback Andre Bost at the 5:10 mark of the third quarter. Bost rolled to his left with the intention to pass, but he was able to scramble away from the pursuit and find a seam along the sideline.
The attrition began to mount for the Mustangs as the game wore on. Wide receiver Markell Clark aggravated an existing injury and exited, as did junior quarterback Tyler Mizell. According to reports, Mizell, who was 11-for-17 passing for 120 yards when he went to the sideline, sustained an injury to his left arm.
“We had kids doing stuff they had never done before,” Lubowicz said. “We had to use a holder who had never held the ball, and we had a quarterback come in who had just played a jayvee game last night. Kids filled in for each other and just jumped in and played.”
With the offense hobbled, the East Lincoln defense sealed the game away by stopping the Wolves (0-3) on their last two late-game possessions, once on downs and the other on an interception by Landon Glezen with 19 seconds remaining.
Moments earlier, East Lincoln linebacker Ben Cutter wrapped up Bost at the line of scrimmage on fourth-and-two, forcing the Wolves to surrender the ball on downs with 2:52 remaining.
East Lincoln’s Orlandis Howell-Johnson was the game’s top rusher with 68 yards on 13 carries, but the passing game for East was inconsistent.
For the Wolves, Bernard Wingate had a 2-point conversion run and pounded out 57 yards rushing on 14 attempts.
East Lincoln (3-0) is idle next week, and the timing of the open date could not be better.
“Somebody is smiling down upon us. I’m glad we have that week. We can focus on getting healed up,” Lubowicz said.
East Lincoln’s conference opener is Sept. 17 against Hickory. Lincolnton is also open this week before launching into league play Sept. 17 at home against Bunker Hill in the Catawba Valley 2AAthletic Conference.
Knights gash Trojans
North Lincoln rolled to a 54-40 win over Northwest Cabarrus on Friday night in Pumpkin Center, closing out their non-conference schedule with two wins in three outings.
The Knights ran for a whopping 504 yards against the Trojans on 63 carries, reaching the end zone eight times, all on the ground.
Junior Brennen Rogers had a career night for North Lincoln. The fullback carried the ball 20 times for 200 yards and scored four touchdowns to pace the Knights’ rushing attack.
Senior quarterback Kyle Kovalchuk followed up his big game a week ago by running for 153 yards and a pair of scores on 18 carries. Liam Sutton, another North Lincoln senior, added 86 more yards on nine carries, with a couple touchdowns.
After their 14-7 season-opening loss at West Lincoln, the Knights improved to 2-1 on the season with back-to-back wins.
North Lincoln will be open this week before entering Western Foothills 3A Conference play on September 17 at Statesville, followed by a home game against Hickory on September 24.
Northwest Cabarrus fell to 0-3 on the season, and is scheduled to host Mount Pleasant this Friday.
(Published September 6, 2021)